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Review: Josie and the Pussycats #9

Josie#9With maybe a few too many guest stars, a couple giant mechas, and a truly heartfelt ending,  Marguerite Bennett and Cameron DeOrdio’s Josie and the Pussycats run wraps with okay guest art by Kelsey Shannon and flawless colors from Kelly Fitzpatrick. Most of the issue is a giant chase sequence featuring Josie, the Pussycats, and basically every character who has appeared in this comic chasing DJ Quiplo and the Doc Charles Gang, who have kidnapped their opener/sales saving guest stars the Archies.

My biggest issue with Josie #9 is Bennett and DeOrdio is dusting off a character or “forgotten friend” (Pepper), who hasn’t appeared since the first issue and making her almost the center of the story. It’s kind of cool that there are callbacks to issue one in the final issue, but there is no setup for this development beyond a quick mid-issue plot twist and the fact that, again, every character who has appeared in this volume of Josie and the Pussycats appears in this issue. It feels more like a clipshow that a genuine emotional moment even though having an electric cello player join the Pussycats is pretty badass. Pepper’s appearance seems rushed, and the fact that she’s been left behind the whole series is brushed over with jokes and cute pets. It’s also feels like Valerie and Melody’s arc getting put on the sideline for her guest appearance, and there’s no mention of, say, Valerie’s inner conflict about being in the Pussycats for artistic reasons versus commercial reasons.

However, one story beat that Bennett, DeOrdio, and Shannon really stick the landing on is repairing the friendship between Alexandra and Josie and doing it with style. Alexandra’s “thing” with Alan M is getting pretty complicated, especially since he’s the Pussycats manager and had a fling with Josie in previous issues. (Still working on this.) In the past, Josie and Alexandra would have been passive aggressive about this, but thanks to the power of character development, they talk it out while encased in exosuits straight out of Ultraman. Thanks to Alexandra’s presence in most issues of the series and the real selling of her and Alan M’s romance last issue, the reunion between her and Josie definitely feels earned. I was definitely smiling when they texted each other brunch plans.

Along with Audrey Mok’s fabulous eye for fashion that Shannon ably replicates in this issue, the thing I will miss most about Josie and the Pussycats is Cameron DeOrdio and Marguerite Bennett’s scripts that are filled to the brim with clever pop culture references, meta gags, and just happen to be flat out hilarious. One line of dialogue, like calling DJ Quiplo’s EDM themed henchmen “WicDiv rejects” because they wish they were as fuckboy as Woden, could create a direct path between my eye and my funny bone. The Archies also fit in nicely as comic relief in Josie #9 with a nod to Reggie’s roots as a greaser when he tries to get out of ropes by using a comb a la Outsiders, or him, or the kidnappers’ priceless reaction when they realize that they forgot to confiscate Veronica’s cellphone.

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Shannon is pretty badass at drawing vehicles and also slays on the double page spreads featuring Josie and Alexandra’s Megazord mecha things. Her faces are a little weak though. For the most part, this doesn’t hurt the story, but it’s a little hard to read Josie’s reaction when she and Alexandra have their *important* conversation about their friendship and Alan M. Is she angry, cool with it,  just plain indifferent, or pulling a weird face? The dialogue confirms that they’re friends, and that Alexandra still wants to pursue Alan M romantically, but Shannon’s art isn’t as expressive as Audrey Mok’s. But her chase scenes are high energy, and the bright yellow and orange backgrounds that Fitzpatrick uses add the artistic equivalent of nitrous to them.

Josie and the Pussycats #9 is a mixed bag plot and Pepper-wise, but Marguerite Bennett, Cameron Deordio, Kelsey Shannon, and Kelly Fitzpatrick include a lot of what made the series so great, including clever humor, exhilarating setpieces, and a focus on female friendship. It’s fitting that the comic ends in one big, adorable sleepover reminiscient of scenes in the fantastic 2001 Josie and the Pussycats film, but without Bullseye the Target dog mascot as a guest.

Story: Marguerite Bennett and Cameron DeOrdio Art: Kelsey Shannon Colors: Kelly Fitzpatrick
Story: 7 Art: 7 Overall: 7 Recommendation: Read

 Archie Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Josie and the Pussycats #8

Josie8In the penultimate issue of Josie and the Pussycats #8, the band does Japan with the Archies in tow. Writers Marguerite Bennett and Cameron DeOrdio also bring a boatload of romantic angst to their script as Alexandra Cabot (who recently became friends with Josie again) becomes friends with benefits with the Pussycats’ manager Alan M, who broke Josie’s heart a few issues back. Audrey Mok and Kelsey Shannon’s art is glorious per usual, and they get to fly high fashionwise when the Pussycats and Archies visit the Harajuku District, which ends up to be a calculated move in former supervillain, Alex Cabot’s bid to be their new manager.

The crossover with the Archies is handled in DeOrdio and Bennett’s usually clever way as Alex slips that it was a “PR move” on Josie’s part to let a bunch of cool teens who believe the world revolves around them (Except for Jughead, duh.) open for them. This joke has another, meta, comic book industry level because companies often bring in more popular characters to save lower performing books from cancellation, which is like Deadpool’s only job. And who’s more popular at Archie Comics than Archie? The Archies are used mainly for comedy/cliffhanger setting up, but Deordio, Bennett, Mok, Shannon, and colorists Kelly Fitzpatrick and Matt Herms include a wonderful shopping montage featuring Veronica and Melody, who bond over great outfits and selfie filters.

Other than the frankly insane and Saturday morning cartoon type ending, the main conflict in Josie #8 comes from the not-so-great people that still have an influence onjosieInterior the band, namely, the Cabot siblings and Alan M. Alan M and Alexandra spend most of the issue eating tasty ramen and having cringeworthy banter about their relationship status. It’s the dark mirror of the Josie/Alan M adorableness in Josie #4 so Fitzpatrick and Herms’ palette is more restrained and not so romantic. They do pour on the intense blues and pinks when Josie finds out about their tryst in an extremely emotional sequence. Josie, Valerie, and Melody are a cool right now, but they should really find a new manager who isn’t a total player or supervillain-turned-sycophant, who makes random Sean Connery references. Those kind of people are great for drama purposes though.

In Josie and the Pussycats #8, Audrey Mok and Kelsey Shannon demonstrate that they’re the perfect artists to draw high grade angst with close-up shots of Josie and Alexandra crying over their shared soft boy experience. This builds nicely from a quick shot/reverse shot sequence at the Shinto festival the bands go to where Josie almost puts together the Alexandra/Alan M shaped pieces and is cushioned in a few panels that focus on Josie, Valerie, and Melody’s flawed, yet amazing friendship. Yay, hugs!

Josie and the Pussycats #8 has comedy, sadness, and a few great Jughead one-liners plus Audrey Mok and Kelsey Shannon’s intricate attention to costuming and setting, which makes me excited for Mok taking over as the main artist on Archie. Marguerite Bennett and Cameron DeOrdio craft a solid story out of the lingering feeling Josie has for Alan M plus the drama bomb that is the Cabot siblings and then go bonkers at the end because the next issue is the last one.

 

Story: Marguerite Bennett and Cameron DeOrdio Art: Audrey Mok and Kelsey Shannon Colors: Kelly Fitzpatrick and Matt Herms
Story: 8.5 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.7 Recommendation: Buy

 Archie Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Josie and the Pussycats #7

Josie7CoverEven though each issue is chock-full of great jokes and pop culture references, the through-line of Josie and the Pussycats has been a little of the sad side with Josie being a flawed heroine and sometimes the villain in her own story. However, Josie #7 is more of a feel-good issue from writers Marguerite Bennett and Cameron DeOrdio, artist/should design all the Academy Award dresses Audrey Mok, and colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick. It does grapple with the nature of fame, but there are plenty of Melody non-sequiturs, “head pats”, and the ending is quite sweet.

Melody continues to be the most entertaining and hilarious Pussycat and her mix of erudition and cluelessness makes her a very unique character. She’ll go from using five dollar words that she picked up via osmosis from an audio book to taking everything literally with a couple of Les Mis and Lord of the Rings along the way. Bennett, DeOrdio, and Mok also give her an active role in the issue’s big double page spread fight scene against an EDM group’s evil robot backup dancers. This sequence parodies superhero comics and hullabaloo over award shows in one fell swoop and throws some shade on the EDM craze. (If the Chainsmokers ever played MTV Unplugged, it would be a disaster.) It reminded me of episodes of the Jem and the Holograms cartoon that shoehorned crazy fight scenes into a show presumably about music, magic, and sisterhood and is loads of fun.

But Josie and the Pussycats #7 is really a story about why Josie, Valerie, and Melody love making music. They will sing songs to an arena filled with celebrities and a big ass video screen behind, or to a small group of fans at a charity gig very similar to the one that the not-so-famous Pussycats played in Josie #1. Audrey Mok shows this through the passion in the Pussycats’ faces when they play their new hit single, or decide to ditch the awards show to be audience members at small concert held for disadvantage children in a field somewhere. They may wear well-tailored suits or gorgeous leopard print dresses, but they’re still three girls from Riverdale with big dreams and a love of their craft. However, Josie is definitely more image conscious compared to Valerie, who is more concerned with heartfelt lyrics and life goals.

Josie and the Pussycats #7 is a treat for anyone who has thought about pop stars, selling out, and why the hell we keep tuning into a half dozen music award shows for artists who we don’t even care about. (Honestly, why is the American Music Awards a thing?) Also, Audrey Mok’s art is beautiful as ever, Kelly Fitzpatrick captures the pizzazz of a awards show with a flashy color palette, and Marguerite Bennett and Cameron DeOrdio’s script is filled with clever jokes while still expanding upon Josie, Valerie, and Melody’s thoughts and motivations as they hit the big time.

Story: Marguerite Bennett and Cameron DeOrdio Art: Audrey Mok Colors: Kelly Fitzpatrick
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.2 Recommendation: Buy

 Archie Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

C2E2 2017: Writer Cameron DeOrdio Talks Rocking Out to Josie and the Pussycats

Although his day job is a PR associate, Cameron DeOrdio is currently the co-writer of Archie Comics’ Josie and the PussycatsHe was handpicked by Marguerite Bennett to work on the comic with her, which is a modern reimagining of the all-female band complete with a fourth wall that is constantly getting broken, a heavy dose of pop culture and genre savviness, and some fabulous fashion and costume work from artist Audrey Mok.

Towards the end of Sunday at C2E2, I had the chance to talk with Cameron about how he broke into comics, his work on Josie and the Pussycats, the collaborative process with Marguerite Bennett, and why every other line in the comic is a pop culture or literary reference.

Graphic Policy: What’s your backstory with Archie Comics? Did you grow up reading them?

Cameron DeOrdio: I grew up reading some of the digests growing up in supermarkets. I loved the 2001 Josie and the Pussycats movie with Tara Reid and Rosario Dawson. Also, more recently, I started reading Chilling Adventures of Sabrina when it came out [in 2014]. It’s probably one of my favorite current comic books. I loved the Archie comics growing up, kind of fell out of it in my teens, but really got excited with the “new Riverdale” launch.

GP: How did you become the co-writer of Josie and the Pussycats?

CD: [laughs] Dumb luck. I was getting my MFA in Creative Writing at Sarah Lawrence, and I was in Scott Snyder’s comic book writing class alongside Marguerite Bennett. When we moved to Yonkers to go to Sarah Lawrence together, we independently were renting rooms in the same house without having any idea. She, I, and Christina Trujillo were the three genre writers in the program, formed a core unit, and stuck together.When Marguerite got called up on the Batman Annual, she took us aside and said, “Listen, I’m going to do everything I can to get you guys up here with me.”

She’s great. When Archie offered her Josie and the Pussycats, she said, “I really don’t have enough time to write it on my own. I know exactly the person for it.” I guess she thought that person was me.

GP: That’s an amazing story. Going off that, what’s the division of labor in scripting Josie between you and Marguerite?

CD: It recently shifted. For the first five issues, we would get on Skype, have a Google Doc open, and bounce ideas off each other. A lot of the time, she would block and I would throw in dialogue. Of course, it would go back and forth differently. Starting with issue six [which came out on April 19], I took the lead. She and I would talk out a general summary, then I would write it up, and she would look at it, and then we would wrap [the script] up.

GP: So, she was kind of a plotter. Who came up with the amazing Golden Compass polar bear joke in Josie #6?

CD: I’ll admit it. That was me.

GP: The payoff of that joke in the end was amazing. I know it had nothing to do with the plot, but it was my favorite part of the issue.

CD: I love it when comics have those jokes that aren’t exactly part of the plot, but you can see them there. I was glad I could slip one in.

GP: It makes you feel clever.

CD: I love to feel clever.

GP: [laughs] Why did you and Marguerite decide to make the cast of Josie and the Pussycats young adults instead of the “cool teens” like the other new Riverdale books?

CD: Part of it was that there were stories about love and relationships that we wanted to take a more mature angle with. Not to say that there’s not maturity going on in the other Riverdale books. There’s something totally different about relationships in your twenties than in your teens.

You can see that a lot in issue four where Alan and Josie get together briefly. That would have played very differently if they were both in their teens. We wanted to play with that and look at maturity in relationships and kind of figuring things out in your twenties.

GP: How do you go about making Josie the “villain of her own story” while still making her likable, and a character that readers still want to follow.

CD: I think it helps that all of us working on these comics are freelancers. You have to have that ambition and drive and recognize that sometimes you get in your own way. We kind of tweaked and adapted that to a character that sometimes loses the forest for the trees. She loses sight of what’s truly important: her friends and that relationship dynamic.

I think a lot of times we’re the villains of our own stories so [I like] the idea of a character who gets her own way, but has her friends there to back her up. Because female friendship is so important to this book. Marguerite said that we have to hone in on that, and I couldn’t agree more.

GP: Yeah, having Valerie as a friend helps Josie out.

CD: Valerie is a treat.

GP: I also love Melody. She comes off as kind of dumb, but knows all these obscure references. How did you come up with that personality for her character?

CD: Marguerite once spoke to it as Melody is dumb like a court jester is dumb. She’s allowed to say things that other people aren’t allowed to say because she says it in such a cute, charming way. Melody’s not so much dumb as she sees things so differently from everyone else. Hence, having the fourth wall breaks with her.

Melody thinks so differently, and so many things go over her head, but she sees so many things that others don’t.

GP: She’s such a unique character. Josie and the Pussycats has so many pop culture references and jokes. What have been some of your favorite ones to use in the series so far?

CD: That’s a hard question. This reminds me of when [Marguerite and I] were in workshop. We were in separate workshops at the time and pressed for a deadline to turn something in for a professor. She basically turned in a transcript of me, her, and our other roommate Christina talking. The professor said, “This is far too quippy. There is no way that real people talk like this”But we do. We’re just dumb like that.

I did love slipping in the Golden Compass reference that you mentioned earlier. My favorite joke was Alexandra coming in issue one and saying, “I thought I heard something dying, but it was just Josie’s dreams.” I love to write Alexandra so much.

GP: Is she your favorite character to write in the series?

CD: Definitely. I love them all so much, but Alexandra is my favorite because deep down I could be a very good mean person. But I don’t wanna be. I’ve got that little mean, clever person inside of me ready to come forth.

GP: She’s such a fun villain. And at the end of each issue, I always think that maybe she’s a little bit right about things.

CD: You hear from writers all the time that your villains have to be real people and have motivations. Alexandra rightfully feels wronged, and that’s why she’s in Josie’s way.

GP: So, your day job is a PR associate/content developer. How did your career in this field influence your comic book writing?

CD: Good question. I guess that always having to think of not only what a character is trying to say, but how they think it would be perceived. Obviously, we’re doing PR for ourselves constantly whenever we’re talking to people. But the idea of thinking how that might be interpreted helps with Josie more than anyone else because she’s always thinking of branding. She’s always thinking of image and how to stay ahead.

GP: What’s your go-to song from the Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack?

CD: I’m gonna say “Three Small Words”. I love the entire soundtrack and have it on CD.

GP: It’s so hard to find.

CD: I couldn’t find any place to download it so I’m like, “Hey, Mom. Can you send me the CD that I had back in the day.”

GP: Do you listen to the soundtrack while you script?

CD: Sometimes. When Marguerite and I were scripting, she doesn’t love listening to songs with words in them so we would listen to a wide range of things. At one point, we were listening to the It Follows soundtrack because it’s so good. Although, it is kind of funny to be listening to a horror soundtrack.

I listen to a wide range of music when I’m scripting. Occasionally, I will slide in a Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack song in there.

GP: What do you have coming up in the next arc of Josie and the Pussycats?

CD: We have Josie continuing to mature like in the first arc. But we show how other people mature, how their lives change, and how this changes the dynamic they have with other people. Because the Pussycats are now international superstars. That inherently changes a lot of the ways they interact with each other and with other people who aren’t superstars. And it’s going to change the level of their adventures.

I think a lot of the second arc is going to be about changing relationships, growing, and the sense of alienation you get when you change from the person you were. And you can still be friends with people who are changing from who they were.

GP: Any plans to use any Riverdale characters, or are the Pussycats gonna stay in their own world?

CD: Without showing my hand too much, there will be more Riverdale characters.

GP: My final question is that almost every issue of Josie and the Pussycats has done a spoof on different genres for part of the story. Do you have any genres you want to explore in future issues?

CD: I was a horror and sci-fi kid growing up and still write them on the side. So, maybe work one of those in there. We haven’t done a spy thriller yet. It’s so much fun to play with genre because Marguerite and I were the genre writers [at Sarah Lawrence] when we first met. So, it’s the idea of taking that to its logical conclusion.

GP: It’s so cool that you guys have that connection.

CD: I remember once that we threw a party with only a couple weeks’ notice, and she was hesitant about it because she wanted to give more notice. But, then, a bunch of people came, and she said, “I think we’re the cool kids now.”

We have that rapport for knowing each other so long, and it helps the co-writing process, I think.


Cameron DeOrdio is the co-writer on Josie and the Pussycats from Archie Comics.

You can find his Twitter here.

Review: Josie and the Pussycats #4

josie4coverJosie and the Pussycats #4 goes all Audrey Hepburn in an homage to Roman Holiday as a band that was playing random gazebos has truly hit the big time playing a gig at the Colosseum. Writers Marguerite Bennett and Cameron DeOrdio continue to almost too clever for their own good with a script that is brimming with pop culture and literary references, awareness of the fourth wall, frenetic flirting, and so many puns. Josie is self-indulgent, and it knows it with artist Audrey Mok and colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick upping the “production values” of the backgrounds and clothes that the Pussycats wear starting with a music video shoot featuring luscious tiaras and Corinthian columns.

The conflict at the crux of Josie and the Pussycats #4 is one that many big time musicians and bands deal with once they hit a certain level of fame. Do they focus on image or just on the music? Who cares what costumes you wear on your live show, or if Martin Scorsese, Spike Jonze or hot director flavor of the month directed your music video if the music itself sucks. Both Josie and her music manager/object of lust Alan agree that image is important because they have dreamed about making it big in the music industry. Except Alan just sees Josie as a potential pop goddess and not the wonderful young woman that she is to her friends.  Fitzpatrick turns up the pinks, and Mok adds rose petals and gorgeous architecture to craft a classic film worthy romantic moment as their witty banter turns into quieter activities. However, Josie’s real “happy ending” happens in a very different way as Bennett, DeOrdio, and Mok show that “nice guys” don’t usually live up to that adjective.

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Valerie is the most talented and wisest Pussycat/character in general even if Josie steals a lot of the spotlight because of her desire for fame and self-involvement that she is slowly becoming more self-aware about that. There’s a double page spread of Valerie and Josie just talking out their issues after Josie catches Alan kissing another girl at the same “special” spot that they smooched earlier. They talk about how adult relationships are complicated, and sometimes people want different things out of them. Valerie and Melody have a great dynamic when dealing with Josie’s heartbreak with Melody providing the berserker rage and cartoonish reaction shots where she wants to kill Alan and eat his skull. Then, Valerie provides the even keeled advice and compliments about Josie getting vulnerable and not hiding beneath her pop star veneer. And they’re all friends and get to show that off with an energetic headlining gig at the Colosseum while beating up diamond thieves on stage.

Josie and the Pussycats #4 has running gags centered around the emotions that different Rihanna songs bring to go with the usual plot structure jokes, like characters insisting that their life is like a Saturday night cartoon. Marguerite Bennett and Cameron DeOrdio bring the candy covered clever in their script while still letting their characters have complicated feelings while Audrey Mok and Kelly Fitzpatrick bring out each Pussycat’s unique beauty and style and getting to do a little Sailor Moon homage along the way. They excel at both butt kicking and smooching.

If Josie and the Pussycats #4 was a pop song, it would be one with an infectious melody, glossy production, and intelligent lyrics like the adopted love child of Marina Diamandis and Florence Welch with just a dollop of Beyonce. Josie herself is the comic book equivalent of Lana Del Rey with her sad eyes, well-coifed image, and deep reference pool.

Story: Marguerite Bennett and Cameron DeOrdio Art: Audrey Mok Colors: Kelly Fitzpatrick
Story: 9.5 Art: 9 Overall: 9.2 Recommendation: Buy

 Archie Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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